OTB Race Previews & Odds
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A talented field of older horses comprised of five millionaires will assemble for the 93rd running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Stakes going 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, August 1.
Whitney Day will feature three Grade 1 events, led by the historic Whitney, with an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Classic on November 7 at Keeneland on the line.
The card is bolstered by the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign Stakes, a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November; and the Grade 1, $300,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial presented by Runhappy for 3-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs.
The stakes-laden card also includes the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green for 4-year-olds and up on the turf and the $200,000 Caress, a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint for older fillies and mares.
Race 9 at Saratoga on Saturday, August 01 - Post 5:42 PM
|1||By My Standards||9-2||Jose Ortiz
|2||Improbable||5-2||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|3||Code of Honor||5-2||John Velazquez
|Claude McGaughey III|
|4||Mr. Buff||12-1||Junior Alvarado
|5||Tom's d'Etat||6-5||Joel Rosario
|Albert Stall, Jr.|
This year's edition of the Whitney will feature W.S. Farish's two-time Grade 1-winner Code of Honor, who arrives off a late-closing third in the Grade 1 Runhappy Met Mile, where the 4-year-old chestnut son of Noble Mission settled at the rear of the field off a leisurely pace, went five wide around the turn and closed to finish 1 ½ lengths to frontrunning winner Vekoma.
Last year, Code of Honor captured four graded stakes victories, including triumphs in the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers en route to a win in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.
Code of Honor, trained by Hall of Famer and three-time Whitney-winner Shug McGaughey, will attempt to become the first horse to capture the Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Whitney in a career since Easy Goer. The Hall of Fame horse, who was also conditioned by McGaughey, accomplished the feat in one calendar year in 1989.
McGaughey said Code of Honor has proven capable of winning at one turn, but the horse is more suited for two turns.
"Two turns going a mile and an eighth is what he wants to do," said McGaughey, whose other Whitney victors include champions Personal Ensign (1988) and Honor Code (2015). "I do think that last year, the [Grade 3] Dwyer [going one turn at Belmont Park] was one of his better races. But now that he's gotten older, and gotten stretched out, two turns going a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter is where he'll run his better races."
Prior to the Runhappy Met Mile, Code of Honor made his seasonal bow a winning one, when taking the Grade 3 Westchester on June 6 at Belmont Park by a half-length.
With an overall record of 12-6-2-2, Code of Honor brags the highest earnings in the field with $2,473,320.
Code of Honor will attempt to maintain an unbeaten record at Saratoga. A year prior to winning the Runhappy Travers, he was a gate-to-wire maiden winner at the Spa during his 2-year-old campaign.
"He's always liked it up here and liked training over the track. But it's a different main track up here now than it was in the Travers. How much different, I'm not sure," said McGaughey. "I think that Code of Honor has always liked it up here. He trained well here as a 2-year-old and ran well. He trained well here as a 3-year-old and ran well. He's been training well since we've come up here this year, so hopefully he runs well again."
Breaking from post 3, Code of Honor will be ridden by jockey John Velazquez, who will attempt to tie fellow Hall of Famers Pat Day and Jerry Bailey with the most wins in the race with five.
Trainer Al Stall, Jr. saddled subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic winner and Champion Older Horse Blame to victory in the 2010 Whitney off a four-race win streak. This year, the conditioner sends out red-hot Tom's d'Etat, who also arrives at the race off similar form with four straight wins.
Owned by Gayle Benson's G M B Racing, the 7-year-old son of Smart Strike enters the Whitney off graded stakes triumphs in the Grade 2 Fayette on October 26 at Keeneland, the Grade 1 Clark on November 29 at Churchill Downs and the Grade 2 Stephen Foster on June 27 at Churchill Downs.
Coincidentally, these were three of the same four races that Blame had won heading into his Whitney victory.
"There's no substitute for class and they both have it," Stall, Jr. said. "He's a very classy horse. He's very laid back, easy to deal with, and easy to ride in the mornings."
Tom's d'Etat leads all Whitney entrants with three victories at the Spa. As a 3-year-old, he broke his maiden at third asking by four lengths and won an allowance optional claiming event by nine lengths the following year. Last season, he was a one-length winner of the Alydar.
Additionally, Tom's d'Etat also boasts the most wins at the distance, having won six times going nine furlongs, three of which were at the Spa.
"Some horses just take to it," Stall, Jr. said. "I can tell in the couple weeks he's been here, his hair is great and his eye is just what you want and it seems like he knows just where he is. He's been here at 3, 4 and 6. He took off just one year and this will be his fourth year here and he seems to know his way around."
His only defeat at Saratoga was in last year's Grade 1 Woodward, where he was a close but troubled fourth finishing 1 ¾ lengths to Preservationist.
"We had an awful trip in that race, but he fired his best shot that day," Stall Jr. said.
At the ripe age of 7, Stall, Jr. said Tom's d'Etat is better than ever.
"We see no signs of him going the other direction on us, especially from a mental standpoint," Stall, Jr said. "He's one of the last great progenies of Smart Strike. We just feel fortunate to be in this situation all the way around. To be in this spot, to run in these types of races, run in these Grade 1s and more importantly, we're happy that he has a super nice place to go to when his racing career is over [WinStar Farm]."
Bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock, Tom's d'Etat is out the Giant's Causeway broodmare Julia Tuttle whose dam Candy Cane is a full sister to undefeated Grade 1 winner and multiple champion-producing sire Candy Ride.
Tom's d'Etat has never lost in five starts with jockey Joel Rosario aboard and will attempt to keep an unscathed record intact from post 5 as the 6-5 morning line favorite.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will saddle Improbable in attempt to be the first trainer to notch back-to-back wins in the Whitney since Scotty Schulhofer with Colonial Affair and Unaccounted For in 1994-95.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing, the 4-year-old City Zip chestnut won the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita last out by 3 ¼ lengths, producing a career-best 105 Beyer.
"He's doing really well," said Baffert, who won last year's Whitney with McKinzie. "I think he's a much bigger and stronger horse than last year."
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who was aboard 2018 Whitney winner Diversify, will pilot Improbable from post 2.
Allied Racing Stable's By My Standards will attempt to turn the tables on Tom's d'Etat after finishing second in the Stephen Foster.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, the three-time graded stakes winning son of Goldencents began his 2020 campaign with three victories, including Grade 2 scores in the New Orleans Classic at Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Handicap, en route to the Stephen Foster.
During his sophomore campaign, By My Standards won the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby At Fair Grounds before a twelfth-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby - his only off-the-board finish in ten starts.
"He's a good-minded horse and does everything the right way. He's a very smart horse and he's proved that he'll handle [shipping in], so we're confident sending him up there," Calhoun said. "Tom's d'Etat beat us last time with a great race, and we have the utmost respect for him and Code of Honor and all of them in there. But we think our horse is improving and we're hoping Whitney Day will be the day he brings his best."
All three of By My Standards' graded stakes wins were at the nine-furlong distance.
"That's another key. With a Grade 1, and a mile-and-an-eighth, and how he's training; they are all reasons why we're coming," Calhoun said.
By My Standards will exit from post 1 under Jose Ortiz.
Rounding out the field is Chester and May Broman's eight-time stakes-winning New York-bred millionaire Mr. Buff, who attempts his first graded stakes victory for trainer John Kimmel.
Likely to show early speed, Mr. Buff will be looking for his first win since a runaway 20-length score in the Haynesfield on February 22 at Aqueduct.
"We know this place has been known as the "Graveyard of Favorites," but Mr. Buff is stepping into some deep water in this race," Kimmel said. "People might look at his last race and just kind of think that he's a little bit off form. But this horse has run commensurate numbers with all the horses in this race when he's been running against New York-bred company. People obviously think he can't do it against open company."
Mr. Buff arrives at the Whitney off a distant fifth in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 4 at Belmont Park.
"This horse in his last race actually had a little bone bruise in his foot," Kimmel said. "We went into it thinking he was OK, but I definitely think it bothered him. The blacksmith after that race cut out a little area and he had a little area of blood and some damage and since we have re-shod him, he has been a very happy horse here. He's had two very nice breezes over the racetrack."
Mr. Buff will leave from post 4 under jockey Junior Alvarado, who was the pilot aboard 2014 Whitney winner Moreno.
The Whitney, one of the most important races in the North American handicap division, has been won by subsequent Champion Older Horses Gun Runner (2017), Honor Code (2015), Blame (2010), Lawyer Ron (2007), Invasor (2006), Left Bank (2002), Lemon Drop Kid (2000), Victory Gallop (1999), Criminal Type (1990) and Slew o' Gold (1984). Prominent Whitney victors during the early years of the race include all-time greats Equipoise (1932), Discovery (1934-36), War Admiral (1938), Stymie (1946), Tom Fool (1953), Carry Back (1962), Kelso (1961, 1963, 1965), Dr. Fager (1968) and Alydar (1978).
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Two-time Grade 1-winner Code of Honor breezed a half-mile in 49.04 seconds at 5:30 a.m. Monday (July 27) morning over the Oklahoma training track in his final work for the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, August 1.
Owned by W.S. Farish and trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, the 4-year-old chestnut son of Noble Mission worked solo under regular exercise rider Lexi Peaden through splits of 25.1, 49 and out in 1:01.3.
"That's exactly what we wanted. I just wanted him to have a little bit of work and that's what I asked for him to go in," said McGaughey. "I always breeze him on the Monday before he runs on Saturday. That seems to put him on his game. He's had two good works up here and he seems to be doing fine."
McGaughey credited Peaden for her professionalism in piloting Code of Honor through his morning training.
"She does a great job on him. She doesn't miss a beat and I have confidence that he'll go out and do what we want him to do," said McGaughey. "He's a pretty push-button horse. If I put a jock on him, he might go a little bit faster than what I want him to. This way, we'll leave a little something in there."
Code of Honor enjoyed a tremendous sophomore season winning four of eight starts, including Grade 1 wins in the Runhappy Travers at Saratoga and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. He launched his 4-year-old campaign with two starts at Belmont Park led by a win in the Grade 3 Westchester in June and a closing third last out in the Grade 1 Runhappy Met Mile on July 4 when traveling one turn.
McGaughey will hand the reins to Hall of Famer John Velazquez, a four-time Whitney winner, when Code of Honor stretches back out to nine furlongs in the Whitney.
"Johnny knows him well and he's been in these spots many times. I'm looking forward to running him a mile and an eighth over this track," said McGaughey.
Velazquez has previously notched Whitney wins with Left Bank , Lawyer Ron , Commentator  and Cross Traffic , while McGaughey's trio of Whitney victors include Personal Ensign , Easy Goer  and Honor Code .
A probable field for the Whitney includes By My Standards (Bret Calhoun), Improbable (Bob Baffert), Mr. Buff (John Kimmel), Owendale (Brad Cox), and Tom's d'Etat (Al Stall, Jr.)
The Hall of Fame conditioner said he is hopeful the compact but talented field will provide some speed to chase.
"The short field doesn't bother me. He's had short fields, deep fields, it doesn't matter, but I'd like to get some pace," said McGaughey.
Code of Honor will attempt to become the first horse to win the Travers and the Whitney since Medaglia d'Oro did so in 2002-03. A Kentucky homebred, Code of Honor is out of the graded stakes-winning Dixie Union broodmare Reunited.
Grade 1-winner Tom's d'Etat posted a half-mile breeze in 48.22 seconds on the main track Friday in preparation for the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap on August 1 at Saratoga.
Owned by Gayle Benson's G M B Racing, Tom's d'Etat was among the first horses to breeze over the main track at 5:45 a.m., recording his final work for the Whitney, a Breeders' Cup Win and You're In event offering a berth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Trainer Al Stall, Jr. said the 7-year-old veteran continues to be a professional.
"It was just what we've seen in the past," Stall, Jr. said. "I just put him with another horse to get his attention and put him back in the game. He went around there very, very comfortably, put up the numbers that we wanted him to, and he galloped out like we wanted him to gallop out. More importantly, it seemed like he was very good back at the barn."
Tom's d'Etat, a bay son of champion-producing stallion Smart Strike, arrives at the Whitney off a four-race winning streak, all of which took place against stakes company. Following a triumph in the Grade 2 Fayette on October 26 at Keeneland, he struck Grade 1 gold for the first time in the Clark at Churchill Downs over fellow Whitney aspirant Owendale. He then made his seasonal bow a winning one over a wet track in the Oaklawn Mile before registering a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.
"All you got to do is look at his races," Stall, Jr. said of the 11-time winner of 18 starts. "He's just crushed some of his rivals over the years. He's run great times and fabulous figures and things like that. He's shown it to us and we're just happy to be in this situation."
Tom's d'Etat boasts three victories in four starts over the Saratoga main track, including a victory in last year's Alydar, as well as a nine-length victory against allowance optional claiming company in July 2017.
Seeing a non-gelded 7-year-old horse at this caliber is quite uncommon in racing, but Stall's patience was highly rewarded.
"We thought he was worth it all along. I don't know that any of us thought he'd be right where he is right now at age 7, but we'll take what comes our way," Stall, Jr. said.
Bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock, Tom's d'Etat is out of the Giant's Causeway broodmare Julia Tuttle, whose dam Candy Cane is a full sister to undefeated Grade 1 winner and multiple champion producing sire Candy Ride. Tom's d'Etat has accumulated $1,627,272 in lifetime earnings. He will stand at WinStar Farm upon retirement.
Allied Racing Stable's By My Standards will attempt to achieve what every high-caliber athlete wants: peak at the most opportune moment.
The 4-year-old son of Goldencents will enter his second career Grade 1 appearance with momentum, having registered back-to-back triple digit Beyer Speed Figures, while working towards taking the next step in the $750,000 Whitney on August 1 at historic Saratoga Race Course.
Trainer Bret Calhoun saddled By My Standards to three consecutive wins to start his 2020 campaign, starting when he dominated optional claimers by six lengths at 1 1/16 miles in February at Fair Grounds. That knocked the rust off a nine-month layoff in his first appearance since running 12th in last year's Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
Returning to stakes company on March 21 in the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic at Fair Grounds, By My Standards stayed just off the pace in second position before thundering home a three-length winner.
Another forwardly placed trip resulted in a 1 3/4-length win in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in May, earning him a personal-best 102 Beyer. In the Grade 2 Stephen Foster on June 27 at Churchill Downs, By My Standards tied that speed figure for his second-place effort in which potential Whitney rival Tom's d'Etat won impressively by 4 1/4 lengths.
Calhoun said By My Standards has trained fine at Churchill since and is in good order preparing for his first career start in New York.
"He came out of the last race really, really well and he's had a couple of easy breezes since," Calhoun said. "He's going to have a good work tomorrow morning hopefully and we'll be set and ready to go. But everything has been going well for him."
Bred in Kentucky by Don Ladd, By My Standards is 5-3-1 in 10 career starts. He also has never finished worse than second in four starts at the Whitney distance of 1 1/8 miles, with all three of his graded stakes wins coming at that length, starting with the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby last year that earned him a spot in the "Run for the Roses." Both of his graded stakes this year, along with the Stephen Foster, were also run at 1 1/8 miles.
"He does exactly what you ask him to do and puts plenty into his training in the mornings, but he's not over the top," Calhoun said. "If you want him to work slow, he'll work slow, and if you want him to work fast, he'll work fast without any encouragement at all. Luckily for us, he's always been a sound, healthy horse."
Along with Tom's d'Etat, the Whitney field will also include 2019 Runhappy Travers-winner Code of Honor, making for a strong group of older contenders.
"The Whitney is an extremely prestigious race and the racing at Saratoga is always prestigious in its own right," Calhoun said. "We're glad to be in position to go up there and compete and we feel like we have an opportunity to win."
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